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Popular Mechanics

Writer:- Raymond Carver


The story “Popular Mechanics” begins with the weather turning and the snow melting outside. Inside the house, a man is packing his suitcase in the bedroom while a woman confronts him at the door, expressing her happiness that he is leaving. She becomes emotional and cries, but then notices a picture of the baby on the bed and takes it with her to the living room.

The man demands that she return the baby, but she refuses. He decides to leave and puts on his coat. In the living room, she stands in the doorway of the kitchen, holding the baby. The man insists on taking the baby, but she resists, causing a struggle between them. They knock down a flowerpot during the scuffle.

In the dark kitchen, the man forcibly tries to take the baby from the woman, claiming that he is not hurting the baby. She pleads with him, saying he is hurting the baby. They continue to fight for control of the baby until a decisive moment arrives. The story ends without revealing the outcome of the struggle.

The story explores the tension and conflict between the man and the woman, centering around their fight over the baby. The story highlights themes of power dynamics, emotional turmoil, and the ambiguous nature of human relationships.


1. At what time of day does the story occur? How do you know?

ans: The story occurs in the evening or at dusk. The text mentions that it was getting dark both outside and inside the house. The reference to the snow melting into dirty water and cars slushing by on the street suggests that it’s a time when the weather is transitioning and becoming darker.

2. Where is the baby`s picture?

ans: The baby’s picture is on the bed in the bedroom.

3. Is the baby a boy or a girl? Does it make a difference?

ans: The story does not explicitly mention whether the baby is a boy or a girl. The gender of the baby is not specified, and it does not play a significant role in the events of the story. The focus of the story is more on the conflict and actions between the man and the woman rather than the gender of the baby.

4. Are they hurting the baby? How do you know?

ans: There is a struggle between the man and the woman over the baby. While they are engaged in a physical altercation, the baby is caught in the middle. The story describes the baby as screaming and the woman expressing concern for the baby’s well-being, saying, “You’re hurting the baby.”

It is implied that the baby might experience some distress or discomfort during the struggle, but the extent of any physical harm is not explicitly stated.

5. What happens to the baby at the end of the story? Why do you think so?

ans: At the end of the story, it is revealed that the man and the woman are engaged in a tug-of-war over the baby. The phrase “the issue was decided” implies that a definitive action or event occurred, but it does not explicitly state what that action or event is. It could suggest that one of them gained control over the baby or that the baby was physically separated from both of them. The story deliberately leaves the resolution unresolved, allowing readers to speculate and draw their own conclusions about the fate of the baby.


1. Retell the main events of the story in your own words.

ans: In the story, a man and a woman are in the process of separating. The man is packing his belongings into a suitcase in the bedroom when the woman enters and expresses her relief that he is leaving. She becomes emotional and starts crying, while the man continues packing without acknowledging her. The woman notices a picture of the baby on the bed and takes it, which angers the man, who demands it back.

A confrontation ensues, with the man expressing his desire to take the baby with him. The woman adamantly refuses and tries to protect the baby. They struggle over the baby, knocking down a flowerpot in the process. The man forcefully tries to take the baby from the woman’s grip, while she pleads with him not to hurt the baby. The scene takes place in near darkness, adding to the tension and intensity of the situation.

2. Why do you think the writer gives no names to the characters? What purpose does it serve?

ans: The omission of names for the characters in the story serves a specific purpose. By not providing names, the writer creates a sense of universality and anonymity. The characters become representative of broader human experiences rather than specific individuals. This technique allows readers to relate to the story on a more general level, emphasizing the universality of the emotions and conflicts depicted.

3. How is irony used in this story?

ans: Irony is effectively employed in this story to highlight the dissonance between the characters’ words and actions, adding depth and complexity to the narrative. One notable instance of irony is the repeated statement, “I’m glad you’re leaving!” uttered by the woman. The irony lies in the fact that despite their proclaimed desires for separation, both characters engage in a tense struggle over the custody of their baby.

By employing irony in these ways, the writer adds complexity and depth to the story, inviting readers to reflect on the contradictions, conflicts, and unintended consequences that arise from the characters’ actions and words. Irony serves as a narrative device that exposes the inherent flaws, tensions, and complexities of human relationships, ultimately contributing to a more nuanced and thought-provoking reading experience.

4. Why is the final sentence in the passive voice?

ans: The final sentence of the story, “In this manner, the issue was decided,” is written in the passive voice to shift the focus away from the individual responsible for the decision and instead emphasize the outcome itself. By using the passive voice, the author creates a sense of detachment and objectivity, allowing the readers to reflect on the consequences of the characters’ actions without explicitly assigning blame or agency.

5. What does the baby represent?

ans: The baby can be seen as a symbol of innocence, vulnerability, and the bonds between the two characters. The baby represents a source of love, hope, and potential for the future. It is a tangible manifestation of the couple’s relationship and their shared responsibility.

6. What may be the two meaning of the word “issue”?

ans: The word “issue” can have two possible meanings:

Resolution or outcome: The word “issue” can refer to the final decision or resolution of the conflict surrounding the custody of the baby. It signifies how the situation is ultimately resolved, indicating that one of the characters succeeds in gaining control of the baby.

Child: The word “issue” can also be interpreted as a euphemism for the baby itself. It is a more formal or detached way of referring to the child, highlighting the emotional distance or detachment between the characters and the baby during the intense struggle for custody.

Both meanings contribute to the overall impact of the story, emphasizing the emotional tension, power dynamics, and the irreversible consequences that unfold throughout the narrative.


1. How would you deal with these two parents if you were a judge? Why?


If I were a judge, I would deal with the two parents in the story “Popular Mechanics” by Raymond Carver in the following way:

  • I would order them both to undergo psychological evaluations to assess their mental state and fitness to parent.
  • I would issue a temporary restraining order preventing either parent from having any contact with the baby until the evaluations are complete.
  • I would hold a hearing to determine sole custody of the baby.

At the hearing, I would consider the following factors:

  • The results of the psychological evaluations.
  • The parents’ parenting history and ability.
  • The baby’s best interests.

If I found that either parent was unfit to parent, I would award sole custody to the other parent. If I found that both parents were fit to parent, I would consider awarding joint custody. However, in light of the violence and animosity between the parents, I would be more likely to award sole custody to one parent, with supervised visitation for the other parent.

I would also order the parents to complete parenting classes and to participate in mediation to learn how to communicate and co-parent effectively.

My goal would be to protect the baby and to ensure that he is raised in a safe and loving environment.

2. Who, do you think, really wants the baby? Why do you think so?

ans: It appears that the mother is the one who wants to keep the baby. She is depicted as protective of the child and tries to prevent the father from taking the baby away from her. She is seen holding the baby and attempting to hide in the kitchen, unwilling to let go. Her actions and protests indicate her strong desire to keep custody of the child.

This interpretation is supported by the mother’s initial reaction when the father expresses his desire to take the baby. She responds with disbelief, stating, “Are you crazy?” Furthermore, during the struggle, she cries out, “You’re hurting the baby,” showing her concern for the child’s well-being and indicating her attachment and maternal instinct.

3. Is the title “Popular Mechanics” justified?

ans: Yes, the title “Popular Mechanics” can be considered justified in the context of the story. While the title may initially evoke images of a magazine or publication focused on technology and science, it takes on a deeper meaning when applied to Raymond Carver’s story.

The term “Popular Mechanics” suggests a focus on practical knowledge and problem-solving, which aligns with the central conflict in the story—the parents’ struggle over the custody of the baby. The story delves into the complex dynamics and emotional struggles of the characters, presenting a situation that requires practical decisions and resolutions.

In this way, the title “Popular Mechanics” serves as a contrasting and ironic reference, juxtaposing the cold and calculated nature of the characters’ actions with the concept of popular knowledge and problem-solving.

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